A diet beneficial for pancreatitis may be rich in fruits, vegetables, beans and lentils, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and healthy fats such as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).

Certain foods may make abdominal pain caused by pancreatitis worse. It is important to choose foods that will not make symptoms worse and cause discomfort while recovering from pancreatitis.

Read on to learn more about the best foods to eat and those to avoid during episodes of pancreatitis.

The first treatment for pancreatitis sometimes requires a person to refrain from consuming all food and liquids for several hours or even days.

Some people may need an alternate way of getting nutrition if they are unable to consume the required amounts for their body to work properly. This can involve specialized oral nutritional supplements, liquid nutrients administered though an IV, or a combination of methods.

When a doctor allows a person to eat again, they will likely recommend that a person eats small meals frequently throughout the day and avoids fast food, fried foods, and highly processed foods.

Here is a list of foods that may be recommended and why:

  • vegetables
  • beans and lentils
  • fruits
  • whole grains
  • other plant-based foods that are not fried

These foods are recommended for people with pancreatitis because they tend to be naturally low in fat, which eases the amount of work the pancreas needs to do to aid digestion.

Fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, and whole grains are also beneficial because of their fiber content. Eating more fiber may lower the chances of developing gallstones and acute pancreatitis.

In addition to fiber, the foods listed above also provide antioxidants. Pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition, and antioxidants may help reduce inflammation.

Lean meats and fish

Lean meats can help people with pancreatitis meet their protein needs. Some examples include:

  • skinless chicken or turkey
  • lean or extra-lean ground chicken or turkey
  • 95% lean ground beef
  • loin or round cuts of beef or pork

Certain types of fish are also lower in fat while providing plenty of protein. These include white fish, such as cod or haddock, and canned fish packed in water (not oil). Some research suggests that eating approximately 2 to 3 servings of fish per week may even help to prevent non-gallstone-related acute pancreatitis.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)

Chronic pancreatitis is a long-term condition that can make it harder for the body to absorb nutrients from food. If dietary changes and medication are not helping a person to absorb enough nutrition, a doctor may prescribe oral nutritional supplements to help a person gain weight and get the nuritients they need.

According to the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN), oral nutritional supplements containing medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) may be helpful for some people with chronic pancreatitis.

However, these supplements are not the same as MCT oil products that people may purchase to pursue weight loss or fitness goals.

MCT oil is a type of fat, and it may not be suitable for everyone. For example, people recovering from acute pancreatitits may be advised to follow a low-fat diet that limits added fats.

With pancreatitis, a person should only consume supplements containing MCTs under a doctor’s advice.


Drinking alcohol during an acute pancreatitis attack can worsen the condition or contribute to chronic pancreatitis.

Chronic alcohol use can also cause high triglyceride levels, a major risk factor for pancreatitis.

For people whose chronic pancreatitis is caused by alcohol use, drinking alcohol can result in severe health issues and even death.

Fried foods and high-fat foods

Fried foods and high-fat foods, such as burgers and french fries, can be problematic for people with pancreatitis. The pancreas helps with fat digestion, so foods with more fat make the pancreas work harder.

Other examples of high-fat foods to avoid include:

  • high-fat dairy products, such as cream, whole milk, and full fat cheeses
  • processed meats, such as hot dogs and sausage
  • mayonnaise
  • potato chips

Eating these types of processed, high-fat foods can also lead to heart disease.

Refined carbohydrates

Registered dietitian Deborah Gerszberg recommends that people with chronic pancreatitis limit their intake of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, sugary snacks, and sweetened drinks such as soda. Refined carbohydrates can lead to the pancreas releasing larger amounts of insulin.

Foods that are high in sugar can also raise triglycerides. High triglyceride levels are a risk factor for acute pancreatitis.

People recovering from pancreatitis may find that they tolerate smaller, more frequent meals. Eating six times per day may work better than eating three meals per day.

During recovery from acute pancreatitis, doctors typically recommend a low-fat diet. This may reduce symptoms and help prevent acute pancreatitis from recurring. But with chronic pancreatitis, the recommendations may be different.

According to ESPEN guidelines, most people with chronic pancreatitis do not need to limit their overall fat intake. Instead, they should try to consume a balanced diet.

However, people with chronic pancreatitis may be advised to avoid a very high fiber diet. With this condition, a very high fiber diet may reduce nutrient absorption.

People with pancreatitis can talk with a doctor or a registered dietitian to create an eating plan that meets their specific needs.

Certain risk factors for pancreatitis, such as family history, cannot be changed. However, people can change some lifestyle factors that impact risk.

Obesity increases the risk for pancreatitis, so achieving and maintaining a healthy weight may help lower risk of developing pancreatitis. A healthy weight also lowers risk for gallstones, which are a common cause of pancreatitis.

Drinking large amounts of alcohol and smoking also raise an individual’s risk for pancreatitis, so cutting back or avoiding these can help with preventing the condition.

Treatment for pancreatitis may involve hospitalization, intravenous fluids, pain medicine, and antibiotics. A doctor may prescribe a low-fat diet, but people who are unable to eat by mouth may need an alternate way of receiving nutrition.

Surgery or other medical procedures may be recommended for some cases of pancreatitis.

People with chronic pancreatitis may have difficulty digesting and absorbing certain nutrients. These issues raise the risk of the person becoming malnourished. People with chronic pancreatitis may need to take digestive enzyme pills to help with digestion and absorbing nutrients.

Depending on the person, certain vitamin supplements may be recommended. Supplements may include the following:

People should ask their healthcare provider before starting any vitamins or supplements. Consuming adequate amounts of fluid is also important.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, acute pancreatitis typically resolves after a few days of treatment. However, some cases of acute pancreatitis can be more serious and involve a long hospital admission.

Chronic pancreatitis is a long-term condition that can permanently damage the pancreas.

It is essential to seek medical attention for pancreatitis, as both acute and chronic forms can have serious complications.

Following dietary recommendations can help people to improve the symptoms of pancreatitis and allow for a quicker recovery in some cases.